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Thursday, January 08, 2009

 
The Envelope, Please V

Make way for the 2008 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year. The blogosphere's own Andrew Sullivan made Number 5, in one of his more lucid moments:

"Until we really do bust the teachers unions, the next generation of kids in public schools is at risk." - Andrew Sullivan. (November 13 Daily Dish)

The first place quote requires a bit of context. Here's the quote:

"When the scores go up, it's not just meaningless. It's worrisome." – Alfie Kohn. (October 18 Salt Lake Tribune)

The Tribune article is no longer available online, but Jim Horn has a much larger excerpt here. Kohn apparently thinks the tests in question are being dumbed down, but someone who makes remarks like these isn't the best authority on what defines dumb:

He said competition in schools destroys their sense of community. Advanced Placement classes, he claimed, focus more on material but don't do much to deepen students' understanding. He said standardized tests are designed so that some students must always fail or they're considered too easy, and often the students who do poorly are members of minority groups.

"We are creating in this country before our eyes, little by little, what could be described as educational ethnic cleansing," Kohn said. He called Utah's standards too specific and the number of tests given to Utah students "mind-boggling."

On the subject of standardized testing, I find no merit in the long-standing accusation that they're racially biased, but I do share the suspicion of many that the practice tends to make curricula more superficial, swaying classrooms to spend less time on in-depth matters and more on rote memorization of sound bites. Then there's the dubious notion that one size of standards fits all.

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